Chinese investments boost Fiji ties

On Monday, Wang hosts a key meeting in Fiji with foreign ministers from 10 Pacific nations he hopes will endorse a sweeping new agreement covering everything from security to fisheries.

But some nations are pushing back. David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, has told other leaders he will not endorse the plan, warning them in a letter that it would needlessly heighten geopolitical tensions and threaten regional stability.

Panuelo called it “the single most game-changing proposed agreement in the Pacific in any of our lifetimes” and said it “threatens to bring a new cold war era at best, and a World War at worst.”

A draft of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press shows that China wants to train Pacific police officers, team up on “traditional and non-traditional security” and expand law enforcement cooperation.

China also wants to jointly develop a marine plan for fisheries – which would include the Pacific’s lucrative tuna catch – increase cooperation on running the region’s internet networks, and set up cultural Confucius Institutes and classrooms. China also mentions the possibility of setting up a free trade area with the Pacific nations.

In Fiji, the economy was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The vital tourism industry shut down overnight and GDP shrank by more than 15 per cent. As the world reopens, Fiji is trying to bounce back, and many are happy to see China write the cheques.


Chinese foreign minister starts Pacific tour, offering security and free trade pacts

China’s involvement in the region doesn’t come completely out of the blue. There has been a long history of Chinese immigration in Fiji, with many Chinese Fijians running corner stores and other businesses.

“There’s a good side and a bad side,” said Nora Nabukete, a student at the University of the South Pacific. “We get more money into the economy, being pumped in and stuff, but then there’s also a side where they bring in a lot of new things that are new to the Fijian culture.”

Nabukete worries about the seedier side that has been associated with Chinese investment in Fiji – a supposed influx of gambling, gangs and drugs.

She said that aligning with China could mean that Fiji creates tension with the United States and other Western nations, and for that reason, she hopes that Fiji does not endorse Wang’s agreement.

“There’s so much more to lose in the future than what we’re experiencing now if Fiji does sign,” she said.

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